American Jewish desk reference : [the ultimate one-volume reference to the Jewish experience in America] /

Corporate Author: American Jewish Historical Society.
Format: Book
Language: English
Published: New York : Random House, 1999.
Edition: 1st ed.
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Review by Choice Review

This excellent, comprehensive reference tool is a welcome addition to the sparse literature on American Jewry. Its almost 900 entries in 14 chapters cover the full spectrum of US history and culture, including Judaism and community, law, government and politics, Zionism, business, labor, education, sports, the arts, literature, and science. Each chapter opens with a list of contents, arranges entries alphabetically, and ends with a bibliography. The book opens with a chronology of important dates in US Jewish history, and concludes with appendixes that provide information on additional resources. The entries include essays, some as long as four double-column pages, on topics, organizations, and movements, as well as biographical sketches. A comprehensive, analytical index ties the enormous amount of information together, with page citations in boldface indicating separate entries. Boldfaced names within articles highlight separate entries. Although authoritative, this well-written work has only a few signed articles. In virtually every category, one can quarrel with the proportion of space allotted (virtually the same for Rabbi Irving Greenberg and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel); cite wrong definitions (e.g., "Glatt kosher"); or find omissions (e.g., the widespread Orthodox Beth Jacob School System, although a paragraph is assigned to Drisha, a women's study Institute; Agudath Israel, a major Orthodox organization, omitted from the index). These do not mar the book's overall excellence. Highly recommended for all libraries. D. Kranzler; Queensborough Community College, CUNY

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Review by Booklist Review

Produced by the American Jewish Historical Society, the oldest religious historical society in the U.S., this specialized encyclopedia comes with impeccable credentials. Since 1892, the society has published authoritative works documenting the Jewish experience in America. Recent society efforts include the five-volume Jewish People in America (Johns Hopkins, 1992) and the two-volume Jewish Women in America [RBB Ja 1 & 15 98]. American Jewish Desk Reference (AJDR) is unique as the first single-volume desk reference to focus on the "history, religious observances, culture, and achievements of the Jewish people in America." The value of this work is considerably enhanced through a thematic rather than straight alphabetical arrangement of entries. That is, the 900 entries are displayed in alphabetical order but within 14 separate, thematic chapters. These chapters cover broad topics such as "History of the Jews in America"; "Rituals, Celebrations, Holidays, and Family Life"; "Education and Intellectual Life"; and "Language and Literature." There is a minor drawback to this approach in that readers may need to spend several moments consulting the index before turning to a specific topic. However, this slight inconvenience is more than offset by the greater significance the information carries because it is arranged in a meaningful context. At least 85 percent of entries are biographical, covering noteworthy American Jews such as Jack Benny, Louis Brandeis, Albert Einstein, Milton Friedman, Samuel Gompers, Henry Kissinger, Sandy Koufax, Jerry Seinfeld, and Gloria Steinem. These entries are usually 150 to 500 words in length. The remaining entries may run to well over 3,000 words and cover topics including Academia, Israel-U.S. relations, Marriage, Orthodox Judaism, Labor movement, and Vaudeville. In addition to the comprehensive index, readers may locate information through the detailed table of contents or via the numerous internal cross-references. The graphic design is uncommonly good. Ample white space between entries and use of sensible typography make the volume very easy on the eyes. A careful sprinkling of photos (black and white) and brief sidebars further add to this encyclopedia's readability. Another characteristic that makes AJDR so readable is that it has a sense of humor. Although definitely a solid reference work, AJDR describes Shari Lewis as "The world's most delightful sock handler" and Jerry Seinfeld as "The man who made America laugh at nothing." AJDR is a recommended purchase for larger academic libraries, any academic library with a focus on ethnic/religious studies, and high-school and public libraries that serve a significant Jewish community. Libraries that can afford only one reference on the Jewish people may prefer a source like The New Standard Jewish Encyclopedia (7th ed., Facts On File, 1992), which is not restricted to American Judaism.

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Library Journal Review

This one-volume reference to Jewish life in America is a monumental undertaking--and a grand accomplishment. Narrative sections on the history of Jews in America since 1585, Judaism, rituals, celebrations, and holidays are followed by extensive surveys of American Jews in the arts, sports, business, science, medicine, and other fields. Each comprehensive thematic essay runs from five to eight pages. Also included are bibliographical references and an alphabetically arranged collection of profiles (ranging from one-half to two pages in length) of major and lesser-known figures in each area--from Joachim Gaunse, who landed on Roanoke Island in 1585, to Rabbi Schneerson, Paul Strand, Lauren Bacall, and some 500 others. A glossary and an index (not seen) are included. Though multivolume references (such as Encyclopedia Judaica, Coronet Bks., 1994) cover more ground, this is the most comprehensive single-volume source available. A wonderful home reference for every Jewish family, this is also an excellent resource for students. Highly recommended for school and public libraries.--Marcia G. Welsh, Guilford Free Lib., CT (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by School Library Journal Review

Gr 6 Up-A comprehensive discussion of the history, religious practices, and culture of Jewish people. The book begins with a 36-page chronology. Subsequent chapters deal with aspects of life in the U.S. such as "Rituals, Celebrations, Holidays, and Family Life"; "Business, Labor, and Finance"; and "Music, Dance, and Theater." Each chapter starts with a list of topics to be discussed, followed by a brief overview of the subject. Next come quick biographies of significant people in the field (women are well represented) and/or short essays about a particular facet of the general theme. These well-written articles, though sometimes mildly opinionated, are not always signed. Each chapter concludes with a list for further reading. Throughout the book, sidebars clarify, expand on, or offer anecdotes on the different subjects. Occasional black-and white photographs illustrate the volume. Boldfaced see-also references and a detailed index facilitate access. While there are many books on the Jewish experience, this useful biographical and historical reference tool includes valuable supplementary information for immigration studies and will provide hours of enjoyment to browsers.-Linda Greengrass, Bank Street College Library, New York City (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.